What's happening

King Lear - What’s happening ...

First act 1. Scene
At the king’s palace the Earl of Gloucester and the Earl of Kent waiting for his majesty Lear.
Ceremonious the king enters the hall, followed by his three daughters Cordelia, Goneril and Regan and the son - in - laws the Duke of Albany and the Duke of Cornwall. King Lear sends a servant for the King of France and the Duke of Burgeoned who are in order to marry his youngest daughter Cordelia.
After having done this, Lear pronounces his decision to divide his kingdom under his three daughters. He makes it a condition that every daughter has to show the extent of her love towards the king of England, just to know :

"Which of you shall we say doth love us most ?"

The one who he thinks is the most honourable will get the richest part of the kingdom. With effusive words both of his oldest daughters Goneril and Regan declare that it is the greatest thing on earth to prove their love to Lear.
Therefore each one gets a third of his possession. Then he orders his third daughter Cordelia to speak up to him. But what a shock! The youngest daughter declares:

"I love you majesty / According to my bond; no more nor less"

As Lear wants to know more about her attitude she explains that when she is married she has to share her love dutiful between husband and father.
In a fit of anger Lear withholds her the third part of his Kingdom and rejects Cordelia. And also the Earl of Kent, who tries to bring Lear to his senses is rejected. Finally the third part of Lear’s kingdom, the legitimate part of Cordelia is shared between Goneril and Regan. Lear only wants to retain his royal title.
He declares that he will spent alternately 4 weeks by one of his daughters with a adherents of 100 men.

Now he gets back to his rejected daughter by asking the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy if they continue applying for the hand of Cordelia by recognising these circumstances. After that the Duke of Burgundy dissociates himself from Cordelia. But the King of France, who truly loves the rejected daughter and who doesn’t understand the King’s reason for dooming her, takes the hand of Cordelia and marries her. With an admonition towards her sisters to care about their old father Cordelia leaves.

As finally Goneril and Regan are left in the hall they are beginning to hatch a plan how they could impair the fathers reserved rights. This plan is supported by the incalculable and irascible behaviour of the "growing old" father.

At the castle of Gloucester’s Edmund the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester complains about his brother Edgars relation to his father and the plans to leave the whole heritage to him. He’s feeling just as noble as Edgar does. As a real villain he decides himself to get the fathers love and to reach the banishment of his brother. He wants to become the Earl of Gloucester.
So, he writes a letter in the name of Edgar to himself. This letter is about the order to kill the father and the share the whole possession after having done the murder. Edmund gets his father to read the letter and finally the Earl of Gloucester believes in a conspiration of his beloved son Edgar. Edmund acts like he isn’t quite sure about the authenticity of the letter and offers him a conversation between Edgar and him guarded by the hidden father.

Towards his brother Edmund behaves worried. He tells him that their father had been pretty angry about Edgar and that his feels really insure so that he is always armed. Edmund gives Edgar the advice to stay in his room.
3. Scene / 4. Scene / 5. Scene
Meanwhile at the palace of the Duke of Albany where Lear is residing Goneril orders her servants to be more unfriendly towards her father and his adherents.
As Lear returns from a hunt, the Earl of Kent disguised as a servant is waiting. He offers his
services to the King, who has just experienced the cold attitude the servants of Albany took suddenly. So he decides to make the disguised Kent as one of his servants.

Also his court jester, who skipped two days of joking around because of the banishment of Cordelia returns and tells his King in bitter words which mistakes his majesty made. He finally offers him his jester - cap, because Lear made a fool out of himself by sharing his kingdom under his daughters depending on their love - extent. Goneril enters the room and complains herself about the lack of restraint of the royal servants. As Lear doesn’t want to comprehend that Goneril isn’t really pleased about his presence she makes it more clear to him by demanding to minimise his adherent. Outraged about this Lear leaves Albany to get to Regan in which he trusts more.
But the court jester also distrusts Regan, who he means "she’s as like this as a crab’s like an apple". Now, slowly Lear suspects that he failed with his decision to damn Cordelia.
At the same time he considers to get back his empire with violence. The jester retorts by getting to know about this plan:

"Thou should’st not have been old till thou hadst been wise"

    Act 1. Scene
At Gloucester’s palace it is rumoured that there will be a war between Cornwall and Albany, as a servant of Cornwall arrives and tells about the conflict at Albany’s. Edmund decides immediately the use the Duke of Albany for his insidious plans. He calls Edgar and asks him about a tension between him and Albany. Edgar answers in the negative. As they hear their father entering the hall, Edmund forces his brother to pull the sword for simulate a combat and to escape finally. To make the combat more impressive Edmund injures himself after Edgar had left. Now Edmund tells his superstitious father, Edgar tried to hurt him with devilish magic art and as he wants to bring him to his senses, Edgar escaped. So, Edmund succeeds Gloucester believing completely in the criminal and distracted intention of his natural son, rejects him and declares Edmund to his legitimate heir. Concluding he sets a ransom on Edgar.

2. Scene
Meanwhile, in front of the palace of Gloucester the disguised Kent is fighting against one of the servants, whose order it is to convey a message against his majesty King Lear. The surprised messenger cries for help as Kent drews his sword whereupon Cornwall, Regan, Gloucester and Edmund appear. As Kent has to identify himself as the royal messenger he is arrested by Cornwall and Regan, who simply ignore Gloucester’s (piece of) advice not to offend (hurt) a royal member.
But Kent has the better hand (cards): He has got to transmit the message that Cordelia and the King of France had disembarked with the royal French army at Dover, to protect the offended King of England with all their forces.
Edgar who is near to the scene realises the whole situation and makes up his mind to play the "Poor Tom" further on just to evade himself by a possible prosecution.

Later on Lear arrives at Gloucester and remarks surprised that his messenger is put into chains. Also in spite of Kent’s affirmation Lear doesn’t want to believe that his daughter has done all this. He hurries into the castle to meet Regan. Now the jester appears to ridicule his majesty with the words:

That sir which serves and seeks for gain,
And follows but for form,
Will pack when it begins to rain,
And leave thee in the storm.
But I will tarry; the fool will stay,
And let the wise man fly:
The knave turns fool that runs away;
The fool no knave, perdy.

As he ends Lear escorted by Gloucester returns: Regan refuses to speak with him.
He gets really angry and demands for the Duke of Cornwall. As he arrives with Regan he reacts very friendly and affirms his faith in the love of his daughter. But Regan has to disappoint him by approving the cold conduct of her sister Goneril. Lear down on his knees promises to yield his rights by imploring:
"Dear daughter, I confess I’m old,
That you’ll vouchsafe me raiment, bed, and food."

Past caring, Regan turns him back and wants him to return to Goneril, who arrives just in that moment. Now, after a long time Lear grasps the plot against him. He quits saying enraged:

"No, you unnatural hags,
I will have such revenges on you both
That all the world will shall - I will do such things,
What they are yet I know not, but they shall be
The terrors of the earth !"

He gets his horse and rides against the arising storm whereas the others takes shelter in the castle of Gloucester. Regan actually becomes suspicious on Gloucester who hurried after Lear into the approaching storm.

    Act 1. Scene
The storm has grown to his fullest strength and Kent who has followed Lear misses him. After shouting for him a knight of the royal adherents appears. Kent gives him the order to get to Dover and convey a letter to Cordelia, in which Kent outlines the horrible situation of Lear.

2. Scene → Climax !
Lear, who is only in accompany with the jester taps around in a fit of anger, madness, offended dignity and despair. The jester supports the royal outbursts with his tomfoolery contrasted by the merciless storm raging above and in Lear head. The king gets more and more terrific (insane). Only as Kent returns, the king is calmed down.

(Since ever this scene is being considered as the climax, the most impressive and important segment of the tragedy.)

    Scene / 5. Scene
Inside the castle of Gloucester the old Earl take it into consideration to help Lear out of his complicated situation, knowing that this might anger Cornwall. He tells his son Edmund about the letter which has the context of the disembarkation of the French army at Dover.
He orders his son to disown (deny) him at Cornwall just to get to Lear. Edmund realises his chance and tells Cornwall about the letter and the father’s plans. Blinded of revenge Cornwall gets Edmund to hunt his father. Edmund gloats as Cornwall entrusts him with all rights.

At the same time somewhere in the heathland Lear diagnosis that he has become mad and incalculable. Escorted by his jester they find a small shack where also Edgar found his last resort. Lear is very impressed by Edgar, who is still playing the "poor Thoms" and confers him "philosopher". In the meantime the old Earl of Gloucester arrives and guides them to a his refuge near the castle. He tells his majesty about the dark plans his two daughters cooked up and advises him to flee to Dover. Only Edgar stays, philosophising about the arising end of his existence.

At Gloucester the situation develops more aggressive: Cornwall wants Goneril and Edmund to depart immediately to mobilise the husband’s army in case of and a battle against the French. To his servants he orders to hunt Gloucester, which he wants with "plucked out eyes".

Unfortunately they get Gloucester, who leaded Lear to Dover. He repudiates all accusations. As a result Cornwall destroys Gloucester’s eyesight. This cruelty lets a servant of Cornwall drew his sword, but unfortunately he is stabbed backwards by Regan.

Back at the heathland Gloucester in accompany with a guiding servant meets his rejected son Edgar, who doesn’t want to identify as the real son. The old Earl regrets his internal blindness towards his natural son, which has brought him external blindness. Edgar is moved deeply but continues playing the mad beggar and philosopher.

At the same time in front of the castle Albany Goneril and Edmund, who fell in love during their ride to Albany are welcomed by an indifferent possessor, who commends negatively changed circumstances at Gloucester’s. He is shocked about the cruelty of Goneril that let damn her father:

"Be - monster not thy feature. Weren’t my fitness
To let these hands obey my blood,
They are apt enough to dislocate and tear
Thy flesh and bones; however thou art a fiend,
A woman’s shape doth shield thee"

This conversation is interrupted (cut off) by a servant who reports that Cornwall died on account of the injuries his servant inflicted on him. Furthermore he conveys a letter from Goneril to Regan. Goneril dreads that Regan might snatch Edmund from her because of the sudden widowship. On the other hand, she might try to claim Cornwall’s part of the royal kingdom. But Albany stays straight and decides to take revenge.

At the royal French army - camp Cordelia gets worried about her mad father, who has disappeared. A courier is able to tell her that the royal British army approaches with every minute. The battle seems unavoidable.

5. Scene
Regan tries to makes the arriving messenger to let her read the letter which was meant to her sister. He refuses. Jealously annoyed she tells him that Edmund and herself made a plan to cooperate as of now.

6. Scene
Edgar, who guided Gloucester to a place near Dover tells his suicide endangered father that they stand upon the highest cliff of Dover and that he may jump, as he wants to.
Actually they stand in front of the royal French army - camp and there is not cliff or anything around. Gloucester jumps and gets down on the ground. Edgar changes his role and plays the surprised onlooker of this "flight" and finally makes him understand that he is uninjured because of a godlike (divine) rescue.

Lear, still crazy and dressed up with flowers joins them, telling about his bloody revenge towards Goneril and Regan. Suddenly a messenger of Goneril enters the scene, wanting to earn the money which is set on Gloucester’s head. Edgar defends his father, kill the servant, who begs him, having one foot in the grave, to convey the letter he has got. Edgar opens the letter and finds out that Goneril wants Edmund to kill her husband the duke of Albany like it seems as he might be killed in action (fallen). He decides to convey it to the doomed Albany.

7. Scene
Later on, while Lear is attended at the French army - camp, Kent, who was honoured by Cordelia for having done goods turns to her father, gets to know that Cornwall was found murdered and that Edmund commands his troops.

    Act 1. Scene
At the British camp the situation develops itself more serious. Goneril, who tries to pump out Edmund about his relationship to Regan, gets more and more jealous. Albany who enters the tent with Goneril considers to amnesty Lear and Cordelia, but to expel the French army out of the British Kingdom. Edmund reacts furious. Furthermore weighting his relations to Regan and Goneril in spite of the usefulness for him, he gets to the solution that no one of them is good enough for the "coming king of the empire".

"To both these sisters have I sworn my love;
Each jealous of the other, as the stung
Are of the adder. Which of them shall I take ?
Both? One? Neither? Neither can be enjoy’d
If both remain alive: to take the widow
Exasperates, makes mad her sister Goneril;
And hardly shall I carry out my side, (...)
Shall never see my pardon; for my state
Stands on me to defend, not to debate"

The battle reaches its climax. Edgar returns reporting about the defeat of the French and the capture of Lear and Cordelia.

Meanwhile orders Edmund to arrest his majesty and his daughter at the castle of Dover.
Albany honours Edmund for his daring on the field, but wants him to extradite Lear and Cordelia. Regan brings her plan to light of marrying Edmund and tells unintended about Edmund’s plan to rule the empire and to murder Albany. The duke reacts suddenly and arrests Edmund on account of high treason. Regan lefts the scene feeling sick. From an aside comment one is informed by Goneril that she gave her poison.
The disguised Edgar enters, wanting to fight against his brother Edmund. Edmund dead injured after that confesses his dark plans. Now it’s Edgar, who is able to disclose his identity informing the other that his father the Earl of Gloucester "bursted smilingly".
A servant joins them having to bring up the message that Goneril stabbed herself.

Edmund lying on the ground revokes his order to free Lear and Cordelia out of the dungeon. But too late. The dungeon - master executed Cordelia already. Lear enters the hall, his daughter upon his arms, blinded by cruelty. Despairing he tries to wake up Cordelia.
A servant joins them having to bring up the message that Edmund died because of his injuries. Albany declares it quite unimportant and continues urging insistently to Lear of renouncing of all power and honour.
But Lear, lost his third beloved daughter, dies kneeing in front of her.
The lonesome Albany wants to assign the reign to Kent and Edgar. Kent refuses knowing that he is in order to follow his master.

The tragedy closes with Edgar saying:

"The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long."

- END -

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